Chamber honors Breitschopf as Walshak Award winner

Kenny Hyden, CATI Committee win Community Service Awards


For more than 50 years, Shirley Breitschopf has been a shining example of the “can-do” spirit of Gonzales — from raising animals to raising a family to growing her own successful real estate business, all while giving back to the community she loves so much.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture honored her with the David B. Walshak Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual banquet at the JB Wells Expo Center.

Local volunteer (and perennial Santa Claus) Kenny Hyden and the Come and Take It Committee both won the Community Service Award, while Lavonne Hyden and Linda Menking won the inaugural President’s Appreciation Award for their work with the Chamber.

Chamber President Wayne Baker touted Breitschopf as the “epitome” of the Lifetime Achievement Award as a lifelong Gonzalean who has been “a pillar of the community, seeking success and growth for her hometown.”

“Throughout her life, she has promoted Gonzales both economically, socially and through volunteerism,” Chamber President Wayne Baker said. “She has been in real estate business, owning her own agency (Breitschopf-Cooper Realty) for 50 years. During this time, she has been an integral part in numerous transactions by bringing in new businesses, connecting investors to development, finding homes for new residents and commercial transactions. During her travels she endorses Gonzales as a wonderful place to open a business, raise a family and retire.”

Breitschopf has been a member of numerous organizations and boards in Gonzales and started the First Shot Cook Off, which ran for 14 years and raised thousands of dollars for the Gonzales Elks Lodge and the Gonzales Junior High athletic program.

Baker said Kenny Hyden’s dedication to volunteerism “is truly unparalleled, extending his helping hand to virtually every corner of our community.”

“For over a decade, he has tirelessly overseen the safety and maintenance of our grounds and has embodied steadfast leadership and unwavering commitment,” Baker said. “Beyond this pivotal role, he has seamlessly stepped into the role of the holiday cheer spreader without ever compromising the magic for anyone. His involvement in events such as Go Texan, stock shows and his steadfast support for churches, city and county entities reflect his boundless generosity and community spirit.”

The Come and Take it Committee was recognized for growing the community’s showcase festival into an event that attracts thousands of attendees and has a local economic impact to the tune of $1.2 million annually.

“The committee has exhibited remarkable resilience, working collaboratively to ensure the continuity of the festival,” Baker said, noting initiatives such as waving fees for non-profit organizations and  increasing safety and security while working to keep the festival free of entrance and parking fees that hamper a number of similar-sized events in other communities.

In his farewell remarks, Baker addressed the vacancy in the executive director position and said the Chamber board sees this period of transition as one to reassess the “organizational structure” of the Chamber.

“As many of you are aware, we are in a transition period right now regarding our Chamber leadership and the executive director,” Baker said. “Despite this, we're focusing on the positive aspects of our journey forward. We've been diligently working to ensure benefits for all of our employees. Our strategic planning session provided valuable insights into the optimal operation of our Chamber.

“We as a board spent the day with with an expert in the field and learned a lot about what we're doing right what we're doing wrong and we're just trying to make our organization a lot better. A lot of the changes have been brought on by COVID, so we're reassessing our organizational structure to ensure its effectiveness. We've conducted research and engaged with the community and other communities to explore various models and how they run their Chamber office. I'm optimistic that once we finalize our plans, the Chamber will flourish for years to come.”

Incoming President Doug Durham said the mission before the Chamber and the community to preserve Gonzales’ heritage and promote its future is “not about any single person.”

“This is about us, all of us. It's about honoring the spirit that built this town, brick by brick, dream by dream,” Durham said. “It's about cherishing the stories carved into our streets, historic architecture, through the work ethic inspired by agriculture, and as a rural community, and whispered within our centuries-old walls. But history isn't just a museum exhibit — it's a living tapestry, woven with the threads of collaboration and community, and that's exactly where the chamber comes in.

“We are the bridge between our cherished past and our thriving future. Together, we can breathe new life into our historic spaces, attracting visitors and supporting local businesses who tell our unique story. Empower entrepreneurs, answering the spirit of grit that continues to flourish on our historic lots. Cultivate a culture of growth, preserving our heritage, while embracing responsible growth and creating a thriving economy that benefits all. Championing the soul of our town, we will preserve our historic landmarks, celebrate local artisans, and keep the spirit of our ancestors alive through storytelling and community events.”

Durham said the journey to accomplish this mission “won’t be easy.”

“It demands a collective effort to open minds and shared vision. Together we can build a future where history is not only of a bygone era, but of a vibrant, thriving community that honors its past while raising the possibilities of tomorrow,” Durham said. “Let's listen to the whispers of our history, learn from its lessons and write the next chapter together — a chapter fulfilled with innovation, opportunities and the unwavering spirit that has always defined our talent.”